7 Ways to Correct your Squat form
I received the Trigger Point Grid as a gift. I chose to blog about it, and my opinions are my own. My Full Disclosure Policy
I need to find ways to correct my squat form.
My recovery from my ankle injury was an eye-opener to the importance of mobility. Ever since I got out of the boot from my ankle injury, my squat form needs to be corrected. Even years later, I still struggle with my squat form and have to be diligent in adding corrective to my workout routine. If you analyze my squat form I would consider it poor. My foot turns out, my weight shifts, and my arms fall forward like textbook muscle imbalances. From my recent NASM Corrective Exercise Certification, I know what I need to do. The other day, I thought my corrections could help others, but first, let’s talk about what happened?
What happened to my ankle?
Grab a cup of something warm it’s storytime. My first day of what was supposed to be my second Figure Competitor prep. I was training a Small Group class, and I started the warm-up. It was less than five minutes into the session when I did a hop off the ground, maybe 3 inches (really, it was a bunny hop), and came down and felt my ankle shift right and then left. It made the awful sound like two gunshots.
Instantly, my entire gym stopped because, as I said, it sounded like gunshots. I knew it wasn’t right, but I was hoping it wasn’t “that’ bad.” Immediately, I lifted my foot and started praying until I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. One of our members was like, “Oh good! Color just came back to your face.” It was unreal.
First Real Injury
I have never experienced a real serious injury. I had a hairline fracture in cheerleading in high school that required six weeks cast being young. I was in and out of the cast with minor rehab afterward. Young bones heal quickly. In this injury, I didn’t break a bone, well kind of, I tore two ligaments, my anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), which connects the front of the talus bone to the fibula, or shin bone. The calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) connects the calcaneus, or heel bone, to the fibula. I also chipped and bruised my fibula because of the impact when my bones hit each other when I came down, and my ligaments popped.
The majority of the pain was from chipped bone and bruise. Bone bruises take months to heal. In the meantime,I should have kept my ankle in motion and continually work on corrective. BUT because of Worker’s Compensation limbo. I was in a boot for five weeks too long, which caused other muscle tightness and compensations from walking in a boot.
Finding the good in everything-even an injury
The result is an ugly and unsafe squat. Making sure that I perform a correct squat will prevent me from other injuries in the future. Recovering from my lethal bunny hop has been mentally and physically hard. Silver lining reflections have taught me a lot about appreciating my body for being healthy and functional. It is awful not to do what you want with your body. It can be very frustrating even for those who have lived most of their lives impaired.
Thankful for the progress I have made
I am so grateful that I can walk unassisted and even jump now. My newest challenge has been consistently working on correcting my Squat. I must train my body to have proper movement patterns and years later have scar tissue. I thought I would have recovered quicker, but I was in my boot for five weeks too long while seeking second opinions with doctors.
I was trying to avoid having surgery and wanted to take a conservative approach that included lots of physical therapy, waiting for workers’ compensation approval, and appointment availability. My ankle was immobile five weeks longer than it should have been. Ankles are meant to move, and when they are in a static position for a long time, they will lock up, which I am working on now.
My left leg has extremely tight calves that won’t release my posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL), which connects the rear of the talus bone to the fibula. Laymens turns my calves are tight and won’t let my foot flex and point correctly. My hamstrings also take on a lot of work because that’s what your body does. It adapts. My right hip flexor and piriformis are overactive because they’ve been taking on most of the work for the last 4-to seven months from me not using my left leg correctly. Without fitness geeking you out any further, pretty much my kinetic chain is offline and I am pretty jacked up, and so is my Squat.
Tips to correct your squat
Grab a foam roller and get rolling, and I am not talking. A casual few rolls back and forth and good to go. SLOWLY. Apply pressure to your BACK OF CALVES (gastrocnemius), shift your leg side to side and then roll it out again; OUTSIDE “CALVES” (peroneal) do the same thing. Get your (biceps femoris) and your TFL or Tensor Fascia Latae that muscle gets a lot of action because it works in all planes of motions, and pretty much you move it moves, so make sure that you roll those out too. Check out my Foam Roll Class on YouTube or post What is Foam Rolling
Grab a good foam roller
I love the Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller. It is substantial, so it seems like fingertips and the tubular ridges on the foam roller. The flat side is like the palm of your hand when you reed to release tension from a muscle. It’s nice to hold it on the flat side for 20 – 30 seconds and allow the muscle to release. It’s excellent because the pattern on the Grid foam roller channels blood and oxygen to the muscles, which helps repair and increase circulation.—a fantastic tool to use for recovery.
Remember, I said I have extremely tight calves. Most people do. We need to work on loosening these easily, increasing circulation and blood flow, and releasing tension from these small but mighty overactive muscles. Just imagine how much work they get in there day to day activities. Calves are usually the culprit is something I have learned in training and through this injury.
I know I always talk about stretching, but it’s important to correct your Squat.
Many people don’t stretch, and it’s only for a breath moment when they do. Most people stretch first and then foam roll second. I recommend doing these two preparation/recovery techniques in reverse- Foam Roll and then stretch.
My college professor used this analogy to tell anyone listening (or reading) thanks, Professor Amber Boyd. “When you get a knot out of your shoelace. Do you pull the laces tighter or massage the knot out first and then pull on the laces?” I know AH-HA moment.
Always foam roll, then stretch. So whatever you foam rolled once you’re done, go ahead and stretch those muscles out that you rolled. It may not be the best idea to strength train them until another day, but make sure you foam roll and stretch at the end of your training.
Here are some suggestions on easy ones you can do for each of those muscles:
Stretching Bicep Femoris
3. Dynamic Stretching
Most people associate stretching with static poses held for brief moments. I enjoy dynamic stretching and include it in my client’s warm-up routine. They are activating the UNDERACTIVE muscle and preparing them to fire up while using movements that make them for the workout. These are the muscles that should be used but aren’t because the tight or OVERACTIVE muscles are doing all the work and not letting them do their job correctly.
In my case, since I have an ankle injury, it’s my Posterior Tibialis, Anterior tibialis, and Medial Hamstring; I suggest about four reps starting slow and then increasing the movement as you feel your body release tension.
- Kneeling Chop from FaithFueledMom on Vimeo.
4. Start from the beginning
I started Dowel Hip Hinge to ensure I am aligned and keep all my kinetic chain points in line while Squatting. Also, using physical cues by squatting on a bench with a reach to help with balance. It helps me make sure that my feet are correctly placed (shoulder-width apart, with my big toe, lined up with my shin; toes, you feel knock-kneed you are doing it right). As you see, hinging my hips properly and correcting forward lean is still something that I am altering my Squat.
Squat to a box with a reach
5. Work on Counterbalance
I have an asymmetrical weight shift, as you see in my picture. I also have limited Dorsiflexion, which if you look at my left ankle, you’ll see it’s not as flexed as the right side. These are the things that I look at in my clients and when I watch people working out at the gym. Minor compensations in your movements allow you to get the job done, but it’s not always done well. Using offset weights is functional.
You usually carry your laundry, purse, groceries, and kids on the same hip (unless you have twins or many groceries). That is your dominant side and probably stronger than the side you use less often. It’s okay to pick up two different weights and balance yourself. Also, in my case with weight shift, I like to do offset squats, holding the kettlebell on my left weaker side to strengthen it and activate it during movement. My right side will take over if I let it. Here are two squats you can use counterbalance to fix compensations.
Offset kettlebell squat
Double kettlebell front squat
6. Work on Front Loads
Working on front-loaded squats can be helpful to solve problematic squat forms. When you have the load on the front, it helps you consciously feel the correct movement. The weight loaded in the front forces you to sit up straight and hinge back correctly.
Goblet squat (kettlebell or dumbbell)
7. Progress to a Correct Squat
Barbell back squat
Working on each exercise is to build up your strength and form. Doing these several regressions are preparing you to execute the Barbell Back Squat. Back squats are a great strength exercise that works most of the muscles in your lower body, mainly your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
The barbell squat is an exercise that permits you to lift heavy loads throughout your body. It helps strengthen your core and legs because you need to brace the load and protect your back when squatting. It is essential to progress to this exercise and not begin with it. Often poor squat form is the cause to back injuries, knee and neck injuries.
Barbell overhead Squat
When you correctly and consistently Barbell Back Squat, I would progress to an overhead squat. Press the barbell over your head as you squat.
When trying to correct your squat form, it is critical that you follow the order and don’t skip around. Each stage builds on the next. I would spend a lot of time starting from the beginning. Mastering those skills and then moving on to the future ability. Proper patterning is vital so that when you progress to the more challenging squats, it comes with greater ease.
Also, don’t be afraid to progress. Don’t get stuck on skill because you’re scared of the challenge. Development is how change is made, so don’t hesitate to move on to the following skills once you feel proficient. Correcting your Squat not only protects you from injury now but will also help you function better in the future.
Is there a skill that you wish you were better at and want to correct?